Mind Your Manners - Teaching Children
Dec 20, 2008 Young Learners 2970 Views
As a child I knew my place. I did not interrupt adults when they were talking, I said please and thank you, and I understood that as a child I could not confront adults. In some respects I kept my place out of fear and in others out of respect. Being afraid of adults is never emotionally healthy and it's good that we have evolved away from that rigid place but perhaps we have bent too far in the other direction. In some cases children now behave like mini tyrants, demanding and challenging.
For ten years I ran a discipline program in a middle school and every day I had a new opportunity to face off with a child tyrant. Our Options Room program was not based on discipline but rather on learning. Many children had never learned how to respect themselves. They had no experience in developing relationships with each other and adults that were based on kindness and civility. In was my job to teach them how.
It was important that children see the difference between making a smart choice vs. reacting to a situation. Their first encounter with me was critical. I did not judge or access what was going on. I simply asked the student to tell me what the problem was. My questions lead students on a behavioral self-evaluation. They were asked; what did you want, did you get what you wanted, did this work for you and looking back would have you done the same thing. Students were prompted to analyze their problem and see it from a different perspective.
Once there was agreement that they could have chosen a different behavior students would create a plan to improve. I assisted them as they learned how important it is to act out a place of respect.
This respectful behavior was modeled by myself and those students in my care saw this in action as I dealt with conflicts. As an educator it's critical to know that the key to the ninety-nine is the one. The one student who is testing the limits. Being able to show love and patience communicates this same love for the others. Stephen Covey author of the 7 Habits for Highly Effective people said it most eloquently, "It's how you treat the one that reveals how you regard the ninety-nine because ultimately everyone is the one."
Doing this consistently every day was modeling integrity for students. My communication with them was honest, no deception and no unhandedness. This allowed them to make a choice to either improve or accept the logical consequences of their behavior.
Schools must have a program for character education because it helps create a caring community but more important it fosters the moral leadership and long term support to give students a positive life skill. Character education done well and done early puts students on a path toward a successful life outcome not just academically but also emotionally, ethically and socially.